Extra-judicial killings: Horror that claimed innocent lives

MDC-President-Nelson-Chamisa-console-a-ralative-at-the-funeral-of-the-late-Kelvin-Choto-who-killed-by-Police-in-Chitungwiza-on-Monday-Pic-Sheph.jpg

MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa (right) consoles a child at the burial of Kevin Choto.

THIRTY-YEAR-old Tafadzwa Mubvongi was on Tuesday last week relaxing at home in Harare’s Kuwadzana 3 high-density suburb, in line with his everyday routine. When his family woke up, no one ever thought that bullets fired by soldiers, who are sworn to defend the country’s constitution, protect and serve the citizens, would snuff out Tafadzwa’s life that morning.

Nyasha Chingono

MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa (right) consoles a child at the burial of Kevin Choto.

Tafadzwa was at home when commotion broke out at Kuwadzana 4 shopping centre, some 500 metres from his house. It was the second day of the business shutdown called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and several pressure groups including #Tajamuka/Sesjikile.

As the noise from the crowd grew louder by the minute, Tafadzwa rushed out to take a peek, not knowing that he was running towards his tragic death.
Tafadzwa was gunned down, not in a war zone, but in his own backyard by soldiers, yielding AK47 rifles, who had been dispatched by the authorities to quell protests against the recent 150% hike in fuel prices.

Within minutes of leaving home, Tafadzwa’s life was senselessly cut short, plunging his family and community into untold grief.

Two bullets from the powerful AK47 tore through his body, ripping holes in his chest and back, killing him instantly. An AK47 7,62x39mm round, being slightly heavier and slower than those of other rifles like the M4, has a tendency to remain intact as it strikes tissue. While it penetrates deeper, it tends to remain intact, even after making contact with bone, and not yaw (change direction) until it has penetrated much deeper.

This was the tragic end to what started as a normal day for the unemployed Tafadzwa, whose daily routine involved winding down the clock sitting and conversing with friends at the busy shopping centre.

What makes his story even more devastating is that he was not taking part in the protests.

It all started when some protesters pelted an armoured personnel carrier with stones as it drove past the shopping centre.

The soldiers responded like an ambushed regiment, instantly switching into combat mode and started shooting at the crowd, hitting Tafadzwa and another unidentified man, who both died on the spot.

Tafadzwa’s relatives interviewed by Zimbabwe Independent this week said he was killed minutes after leaving the house to see what the commotion was all about. One of his close relatives, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said: “He had just gone out to see what was happening at Kuwadzana 4 shopping centre. We are in pain and confused. It’s very difficult to understand that someone I had just seen was dead the next minute.”

He lay bleeding profusely until his death, as petrified people ran for cover, with soldiers in hot pursuit.

In tears, a family friend, who had accompanied him to the shopping centre, narrated the ordeal.

“He was right close to me and the next thing he was gone. People say he was shot in the chest but I didn’t see it because the soldiers wearing black balaclavas to hide their faces were chasing us,” the friend, who preferred to be identified only as Nyanya, said.

Tafadzwa’s grandmother, who is hypertensive, could not attend his burial on Saturday in his rural Chiweshe home in Mashonaland Central, as her blood pressure shot up after hearing the news of his murder.

“I don’t think talking about this issue will help anyone anymore. All I know is that my grandson is dead, nothing more,” she said. Tafadzwa was living with his grandparents at the time he was gunned down.

His cousin, who preferred to be referred to as just Reggie, said the family was not considering seeking justice for Tafadzwa’s ‘murder’.

“We reached a position as a family that now that our relative is gone, we let sleeping dogs lie. We are not really interested in knowing about the investigations and other intricate details. I don’t think it’s necessary to find out what happened, we know that he was shot, who shot him is another story,” he said.

Reggie said Tafadzwa, whom the family members described as quiet and reserved, was not into politics.

“It’s just unfortunate that the system that we are in is a bit tricky. So we just have to leave it as it is. We are just mourning our loved one, he is gone, he is gone,” he added.

Reggie described his cousin’s death as tragic and said it was painful that his “murderers” were free and roaming the streets.

“Obviously everyone wants justice, but all we know is that the culprit is roaming the streets with the state’s protection,” he said.

Tafadzwa’s family did not receive any funeral assistance from the government.

Eleven other families are also mourning their loved ones who were killed last week by members of the security forces.

Another such victim of army and police brutality is 22-year-old footballer, Kevin Tinashe Choto.

Before Kevin’s family knew that he had been killed during the skirmishes that rocked Chitungwiza last week, social media was awash with photos of his lifeless body lying on the reception counter of a local police station.

Angry protesters had left him there.

“He was our future,” his father, Julius Choto, said, as he gave a passionate eulogy of his son at the burial site on Saturday in Chitungwiza.

The 22-year-old was due to travel to South Africa this week for trials before he met his tragic death.

Kevin had been watching the protests from a soccer field, “some metres away from the action,” on Tuesday when he was shot.

Twelve people have been confirmed dead since last week’s protests, which broke out in several high-density suburbs across the country.

The massive crackdown by security forces also saw protesters being hunted down in their homes at night and severely beaten by soldiers and masked men in plain clothes.

The terror campaign, blamed on the opposition MDC and army deserters by the government, has left Zimbabweans in fear as security personnel maintain heavy presence around the country.

Last week’s internet shutdown was a ploy by the authorities to perpetrate human rights atrocities under the cover of a blackout.

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